copyright1
(blog post by RC Concepcion)

So stop doing it!  Really, It really takes no time at all, but I hate having to do it to your images…

Bold statement, huh?  As the Photoshop Guy that’s focused on one mission – taking Photographers to the web- I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about the recent movement to make your pictures as ugly as possible with Watermarks. The practice has come to fever pitch in Photoshop CS5.  Try as we must to share with you how awesome all of the other technology that Photoshop CS5 is bringing us, I invariably get the same question:

“With Content Aware Fill, can people remove watermarks even easier?”  I usually tell people “Yup.  But anyone with a decent amount of skill in the Clone (nee, Rubber Stamp) tool could have at your images just as fast. ”

You shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about watermarking your images. Anyone halfway decent will be able to rip them off, and you will be “DigiSlapped” 3 times.

Interested? Read More Below

The Three Slaps
copyright2
Think of it this way:  As  a photographer, my job is to share with you the best image that I have made, in the event to move you- to buy, to sell, to say that I’m awesome, and so forth.  Considering that, the addition of the watermark in the center of the image takes all of that effort and throws it down the drain.  The viewers eyes are now set to do the dance of ‘let me see what this picture COULD HAVE been provided this big symbol wasn’t in front of it” All of that work is now lost. Consider the fact that some in the community may even see this practice as amateurish, and any effort you’ve put into branding yourself is lost. That’s Slap number One.

Now, we all know that the average photo hacker will take that 72dpi image and run with it to the nearest Walmart for printing, resulting in a really shotty reproduction of something you spent a lot of time and money doing – that’s Slap number Two.

Top that off that a person with just mediocre skill will probably do such a bad clone job that you’d hope the symbol just stayed on and they could have it.  That’s Slap number Three.

Why We Started Doing it In the First Place
copyright3
There is a a little bit of a difference between a Copyright and a Watermark.  Without getting “Ed Greenberg” Deep (He’s an awesome attorney that does some kick butt classes over on Kelby Training), the Copyright symbol was meant to be on stuff to say “Hey, this symbol is here to let you know that I have registered this work with the US Copyright Office.”  You’d be surprised as to how many people will come up to you and say “Hey.. Art class 101 said that you own the copyright the moment you make something”.  You know what? They’re right!

Technically you are the copyright owner of that picture the moment you take it.  But, can you “Prove” it.  That’s what registering your images do.  They give you that added “I will take your wallet in a court of law and you will need to pay for my legal fees while you’re at it” flair to your work.  The copyright symbol is supposed to remind someone of that – kinda like the little blinking red light in the front window of a car when the alarm is on.

A watermark is supposed to detract someone from using your image somewhere by placing something ugly (usually your name,.. but i’m sure your name is wonderful :) ) in front of it.  I argue this – If you’re going to just put your name in big bold letters, couldn’t you do it cleanly in the lower right portion of the image?  Do it far enough in that the crop that a hacker would do would mess up the Feng Shui of the image and you’ll feel a lot better.

What You CAN be Doing
Now, kidding aside, this will make you feel like you have seriously exposed yourself out there for copyright theft – and that really isn’t a laughing matter.  I’m talking to you about this because I -want- you to be protected.  But i want you to be smart about where you spend your efforts doing so.  In that, let me give you a couple of things that you should do:

Use Metadata All the Time

Here’s an under 2 min video on how to make a Metadata Template (no sound)

You’d be surprised how many people troll Flickr for images for their next paid project that WANT to give you their money.  They want to do it, but you wont let them when you don’t place your contact information inside of the Metadata of the images.  Take a moment and create a Metadata template for yourself that has the most basic of information for all of your images: Your Name, Your Website, and Your Email.  I’m a big advocate of using Google Voice (if you have an account) for the phone number as I wouldnt want my cell phone out there with everyone.  With Google Voice, I can turn it off/on to forward to my phone as I see fit.  I never include an address to my images because.. imagine how creepy that would be?!?

copyright_officeActually Register with The Copyright Office
I cant tell you how many people use that Copyright Symbol and don’t actually register your image.  It’s like having a pretend Smoke Alarm!  Take a small moment to go to the US Copyright Office eCO Online system. In there you will be able to submit you images using their online filing system and paying (about 35 dollars, I think) a small fee.  Once that’s done, your images are officially registered, and you are protected from any copyright theft. This time will be MUCH better spent in that you will be able to recoup so much more by being able to prove that you are the creator of the work.

digimarc_websiteGo Pro with Digimarc
If you want an AWESOME way to be able to make sure your fingerprint is put on your images, I think Digimarc warrants a look. Basically, Digimarc is a service that you pay for that allows you to place a digital watermark that people cannot see. You then get a back office where you can check all of the information and take action as necessary. They have a Basic, Pro, and Small business services among their packages and a bunch of tutorials showing you how to implement their solutions. I’d consider this a solid bet based on the cost if you are looking to protect yourself.

Click Here to check out the Digimarc website. You’ll be glad you did.

Check Out Tineye
Tineye is a great new service that’s coming. The short of it: It’s kinda like Google.. but for images. You upload an image, and it will scour the web and see if it can find websites where they are being used. This is a great service that will get even better as they go out and scour more content:

Click here to check out the Tineye website

Final Thoughts
Obviously all of this is my own opinion. I’m sure that there are a ton of people out there that have their own reasons to monitor and watermark their information – and in some cases, those solutions might make the best sense for them – and that’s fine too. What i’d like for you to consider today is just how much time and effort you are spending safeguarding something that will be broken into relatively quickly with the advent of computers and technology.

I’d argue that if someone -really- wanted to steal your image, they’d find a way to do so. Let’s say company X in remote land somewhere in the overseas stole your content for an article- would you know about it? If you’re not looking into these solutions i’ve mentioned- probably not. Your images could be appearing in tons of small market magazines, edited badly to remove watermarks and you’d be none the wiser. Why spend all of that time stressing about those images that you cant see, and invest the time in the tools that -could- give you the reach and protection you need.

Once you’re armed and Copyright – protected, then you can just upload and share to your hearts content! Imagine if a big company -actually- decided to use your image without letting you know.. and you found out….

That would be a great day for you indeed!

(if you want to read more about me, make sure you stop by The Layers Magazine Blog where I write about tech and Creative Suite stuff, My own Personal blog, or you can Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/aboutrc)